March 6, 2014

From Rabbit Holes, coming soon [rabbit holes]

That year wasn't real. Everything in it had happened before. Nothing after it is real, and I don't even know how many times it has all repeated. Let me explain.

At the start of 2012, my girlfriend died and I moved into my new apartment. It was snug for a couple, but alone I had too much room. I was new to the city, and that is a feeling I love. It’s exciting to enter a new city by air, then uncover it from the window of the cab that drives you to your hotel, revealing a bit more between the curb and the lobby, but when you inevitably get to your room to drop off your things and end up crashing on the bed, too tired to not take a break even though you don't want to, sitting back on the hotel bed against the headboard with your shoes on, and if this really is a new city, then all you have exposed of it is that negligible square footage that surrounded the cab — a few unimportant miles of mostly freeway and the widest lanes downtown — the grandiose hotel lobby, and now your hundred square foot bedroom. Maybe you haven't even checked out the en-suite bathroom. That’s all that’s made it into your spacial consciousness so far. In a city of 468 square miles, you have fleetingly experienced perhaps thirty-six point six of them, if you're like me and flew into JFK before being driven to the Roosevelt. For all I knew, the rest of the city didn't even exist. It could be a void. Or it could be a literal circus — tents pitched everywhere — or a war zone, zombie invasion style.

Anything was possible, because I hadn't seen anything yet. But I was grieving, and whatever denial I was in at the time didn't course deep enough for me to even pretend to feel any excitement about that. Truth be told, that first night I fell asleep with my shoes on on that bed, with no supper. I ate breakfast in the restaurant attached to the hotel, an incredibly boring choice that Sheila would never in a million years have agreed to. She would have said, “Be adventurous! Try Blue Moon diner, it has really good Yelp reviews!” as if going to a restaurant based on its high rating on Yelp was adventurous. After a few weeks of apartment-searching, I gave up and moved into the place I had already signed a lease for and paid a deposit on with Sheila, even though it would be big for just one of us. I lived in the apartment that was intended for both of us, her signature still scribbled on the only lease, and I began to do as her ghost demanded.

“See the sights,” said Sheila. She insisted on typical touristy things: the Empire State building, the MET, central park and its troll, which reminded me of taking her to see the troll under the bridge in Fremont, the new Yankee Stadium, but she also insisted that I eat at the least famous dining spots, seeking out the least popular bars and walk down only the streets I had never heard of, because while one really must do a Broadway show and climb the statue of liberty, it was also important to live the city like a local would and discover the hidden gems (without guidance — that would be cheating). It took me a long time to decide whether getting a pumpkin spiced latte would count as a tick on my tourist experience list or my ‘living like a local’ list.  It was before the statue of liberty, actually, that I first knew for sure that everything I did I was doing for a second or third time, no more, and definitely no less, and by that I mean that I was living the year of 2012 over again. When I first stepped up to the foot of lady liberty, for the first time standing in her real presence instead of seeing her through the lens of a camera, I knew at once that I had been there before, yet I had never been there before. There is no other way to explain it. Logically, I knew that this was my first ever trip to New York City, and that this was the first time I ever visited Ellis Island, where my grandmother had landed in ’39, and that my naked eyes had never before looked at the statue — everything was new: the vantage, the unaltered color, the unreplicable sense of amazing height — and at the same time I remembered standing there before.

Paradoxical, to say the least. Impossible. Insane. Yes, that was it. I had been swept up unawares in my brief and the mental break down had taken me completely by surprise, so much so that I couldn't even point to when it started. Everywhere that I went, I argued with myself, convincing myself and begging myself to be persuaded that I had not been there before, while I simultaneously knew and argued calmly and rationally that I had. The year was repeating. And everywhere I went, Sheila came with me, making sweet conversation and so many good suggestions. At first her ghost seemed a representation of what I knew she would do and say had she been here, but eventually she became real — she became unpredictable, and if I created her with my own imagination how could she surprise me? But she did. I had to be insane — but I knew the Giants would beat the Yankees when I saw them play before it happened, and to break or test the spell, I went to the next game the Yankees played — something I couldn't have possibly done the first time 2012 repeated itself because it was something I would never do — and I was convinced the Yankees would beat the Jays, and they did. If they hadn’t, would I have given up my belief as delusion? Did I really know, or did I just take a stubborn unfounded guess and happen to be right? Was I drowning in confirmation bias? I’ll never know, because the fact remained, no matter how much I tested it, that I was always, always, right.

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